Building a course schedule is often stressful for students, so when it comes to choosing courses as a pregnant or parenting student, course selection can feel like a daunting task. It’s wise to choose classes carefully because the workload and schedule of assignments, exams, and lectures would ideally mesh with other duties, work, child care, health care, and self-care. Finding balance will be hard, but with careful selection of courses now, you can make your life later a little easier.
- Talk to an academic adviser. Most schools will assign you an academic adviser who is knowledgeable about school policies, degree requirements, and accommodations. Maintaining a healthy relationship with your adviser can be a key to planning a schedule that allows you to succeed in class while balancing life, work, and school.
- Let your goals inform your choices. Having a clear idea of what you want to get out of school (i.e. a specific degree with a range of opportunities for employment) will help with determining how you reach that goal, specifically which classes to take. If you don’t have a clear idea of what your end goal is, start with the introductory courses that can contribute to a variety of degrees.
- Consider night school or online courses. Some schools offer different combinations of online and on-site classes and options for watching recorded lectures from home. Night classes are a helpful option if you are looking to preserve your daytime routine, and the flexibility of online courses makes them a very popular choice for parents going back to school. Also, talk to professors about any accommodations you may need.
- Read class syllabuses. The syllabus of a class will give you an idea of the workload and exam/assignment timeline of the class, in addition to the professor’s office hours. Knowing how much time you will need to dedicate to classwork and homework can help you gauge whether the course is a good choice for your schedule. Once you choose a class, exam dates and deadlines on the syllabus are helpful for predicting when academic stressors will peak and planning ahead for the extra work.
- Start small. It may be helpful to start out with one to two classes in a semester. Starting small and then adding classes can give you the time you need to adjust routines while not entirely bogged down in tests, papers, and problem sets. Schools often have periods during which you can add or drop classes, or options for taking courses pass/fail, instead of getting a letter grade. So talk to your adviser, and don’t be afraid to adjust as you go. There is nothing wrong with taking a couple of months or years longer to graduate if that is what you need to do to continue parenting and/or working while earning your degree. Finally, if you are co-parenting, try to find time to overlap to enjoy your family together.
By Annemarie Arnold